Enfield are many people’s surprise package of this season – and they could go top of the Lancashire League this weekend if they can overcome current leaders Lowerhouse on Sunday.
Accrington did them a big favour by seeing off Charlie Cottam’s side on Saturday – inflicting Lowerhouse’s first home defeat in 18 months.
Accrington were all out for 102 and Lowerhouse must have thought they were in charge but Accrington pro Ashar Zaidi and bowler David Ormerod had Lowerhouse 10-5 before they were all out for 68, the pair taking four wickets each.
After Sunday’s games, this closed the gap at the top to five points and allowed Enfield, with a double-win weekend, to keep the pressure on the defending champions.
And inflicting another home loss on Lowerhouse would be just the ticket for Adam Bracewell’s men.
"It is a big weekend for everyone really," said Bracewell.
"Lowerhouse have us and Ramsbottom which aren’t easy games while we face Bacup and Lowerhouse and obviously winning both would be massive for us.
"I saw Lenny Dewhurst last Friday and he said Accrington would beat Lowerhouse – and when the news filtered through that they had, I think it gave everyone a lift in the league."
Bracewell is impressed with his title-chasing side but admitted: "I don’t know why we are doing so well. I would like to say it is hard work in training but we haven’t trained for around six weeks due to the weather!
"We usually start off well and then fall off around June and July but we seem to have got through that this season.
"Obviously we owe a lot to our pro Werner Coetsee. He has taken the most wickets in the league so far (59) and has scored a lot of runs (476) but everyone has played their part this season.
"Against Ramsbottom on Sunday, Ash Gowers and Asif Fazal took us from 112-7 to 163 and that proved to be the difference. Everyone is chipping in with 20s and 30s here and there while Hassan Fazal is bowling well."
The captain is playing down his own part as he has 435 runs – which makes him the league’s leading amateur run scorer.
"Getting 151 on the opening day got me off to a good start and I have just taken it from there," said Bracewell, who stepped into the professional ranks with Rishton and Enfield a couple of seasons ago but was hindered by a knee operation last season.
"That got me off on the front foot and I feel like I have been batting well.
"I have been the oldest guy in some of our teams, at 28, and we are a young side but when you keep winning, you enjoy the cricket and that’s what’s happening to us at the moment."
Enfield last lost to Rawtenstall on 23 June in the league – although they tasted defeat in the 12-day long Worsley Cup second-round match with East Lancs.
Enfield got to the point where they needed 15 off three overs for victory last Thurday after coming back night after night to finish the clash.
But a hat-trick from East Lancs pro Ockert Erasmus won the game for the Blackburn side.
The fact Enfield had used Keith Barker at the start of the cup tie on June 30 – he returned to his county Warwickshire after that weekend – meant they only had 10 men and they fell 11 runs short.
"We were cruising until Ocky took a hat-trick and we were gutted.
"We wanted to do well in all the cups but the weather has affected them. We missed out on the Twenty20 to a toss of the coin with Church and then this Worsley Cup game went on for 12 days and it was tough.
"Players couldn’t play on some nights, we changed venue, we kept coming back and I think both sides were just glad it was finally over – although it would have been nice to have recorded a win.
"Now we have just got to push on in the league. We are only about halfway through the season so no one is getting carried away but all we can do is keep chipping away."
Enfield saw off Haslingden on Saturday with pro Coetsee making an unbeaten 52 after claiming five wickets.
Then it was a big win against Ramsbottom on Sunday as Nasser Hussain made 58 in their 163-8 and then, once they had taken the prize wicket of pro Pieter Malan for 66, they got home by 43 runs – Fazal celebrating six wickets.
After Accrington’s victory over Lowerhouse they were brought back down to earth against Haslingden on Sunday.
Batsman Graham Knowles hit 116 and Lewis McIntosh 71 as Haslingden made a formidable 246-6. Pro Zaidi top-scored with just 23 as Accrington slipped to 114 – 132 runs short.
The Thorneyholme Road side will have a new captain for the rest of the campaign as Jimmy Hayhurst has stood down for work reasons, with Graham Lloyd taking over for the rest of the season. Hayhurst hopes to return as skipper next season.